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WSOP: Wattel denies Ferguson a sixth bracelet to fans’ relief

With both players’ boards already exposed, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson watched along with the rest of the poker world as pro Mike Wattel sweated seventh street.

That scene was set in the early morning hours Monday, following an epic heads-up World Series of Poker contest to decide Event #72: $10,000 Seven-Card Stud World Championship.

Per the live updates provided by PokerNews, Ferguson began the hand with split jacks, but his unimproved board read Js-5h / Jc-8c-4d-Qs / 3h by seventh. Wattel had split fives to start, and his board showed 2s-5s / 5d-10s-Kh-4c with one card to come.

In order to stave off elimination – and preserve the hopes of poker fans the world over who wanted to see Full Tilt Poker pariah Ferguson fall short of his sixth bracelet – Wattel needed to find a second pair or the case five.

And he did just that, pulling the 5c to make trips in miraculous fashion, while saving his tournament life in the process. Wattel was still down in the match he had led for hours, holding just 800,000 chips to Ferguson’s 3,600,000 – but the momentum shift seemed to work wonders.

The pair continued to battle for more than an hour afterwards, exchanging the chip lead a few times, but in the end Wattel spiked a diamond flush on seventh to snatch most of the chips. One showdown later and it was all over, with Wattel winning $245,451 and his second gold bracelet.

For Wattel, a longtime pro with cashes dating back to 1994, the win marked only his second first-place finish of his tournament career. The other came back in 1999, when he won the $1,500 Omaha Eight or Better event. In the interim, Wattel was forced to settle for runner-up honors on four occasions – making last night’s long-awaited victory that much sweeter.

And although he later told PokerNews that he was playing for himself, and not the poker community who so desperately wanted to see Ferguson fail, Wattel’s win was all the more meaningful considering who he defeated.

Following the fall of Full Tilt Poker, a five-year freeze on player funds, and a refusal to apologize or even acknowledge the situation, Ferguson is simply reviled by most of the poker community.

Whether he was actually guilty of multimillion-dollar malfeasance, or simply the face of the scandal, has never been determined, but poker fans and pros alike were more than pleased to see him denied a sixth bracelet and WSOP Player of the Year honors.

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